Who IS My Neighbor?

He does it again! He does it regularly. We come to Jesus with one question. He raises another! We’re lookin’ for A. Jesus shows us B.

A fella wants to know about eternal life. (Not just any fella, a lawyer… with an attitude.) Jesus invites him to answer his own question. “Love God, neighbor, self.” “Yep,” says Jesus. Now it gets sticky. “Ahh, but who’s my neighbor?” weasels the lawyer. In effect, “Who’s he [or she]?” Jesus counters. “That’s not the question. The question is, ‘Who are YOU?’ Look, let me tell you a little story.” We all know the rest. It’s the Good Samaritan…. The dude in the ditch. The problematic passers-by. The hated-turned-hero… what’s up with that? Answer: It’s not what the ditched guy deserves. It’s what a good-heart, a GOD-Heart makes happen! So… if you wanna know about your neighbor, you gotta know your own heart.

Can your heart perceive the possible in the face of the undesirable? Can you tend folks you find livin’…way-round-the bend? Can you reject that broken somebody-so-in-so, but cling to the soul of a soul-with-a-ways-to-go. We’ve got 1 set of work campers out, and another and larger group waitin’ to head out. The stated agenda: fix a house. The real work: repair a soul. I’ve been work camping almost 30 years, on site, or administering. ‘Seen some characters. Our kids have too, ‘will again. Some are memorable. O, you get the sweet granny who hasn’t had indoor plumbing in 92 years. Your heart moves, your knees melt. There’s a potty and a sink in place by week’s end and you feel great about it. But then there’s the hoarder. How could anybody live like that? Why should I clean up the mess? Ew! Yuck! Gross! Then there’s the “Chaw guy!” This fellow’s been spittin’ tobacco on his wall so long he’s rotted out the wall at the floor boards! DOUBLE Ew! Yuck! Gross! There’s that family that appears it could work out of its mess but doesn’t. And there’s the kids of the mom who just seems “zoned out.” And you just don’t know what to make of it all. Jesus says: the spiritual matter here isn’t them but you! In all their crazy, cussed calamity, can you see their sanctity? Can you see someone Christ loves enough to die for, that you can care enough to work for? Can you see something is possible in someone, at the very moment it seems the most unlikely? Not just at work camp, but at school, at work, in the neighborhood, or, yes, even across the breakfast table? I know the church calls this grace. I know it’s not easy. And I know that one day, many days ago, while contending with a local lawyer, Jesus called it heavenly. And we’ve been talking about it ever since.

Wanna know about your neighbor, know your own heart. Does your heart pump life-blood, faith-blood as far as your hands and feet? Did you know there’s this nasty condition known as PAD? It means Peripheral Artery Disease. That’s Doc-speak for the good stuff in your heart don’t [sic.] ever get as far as your fingers and toes.

Just as surely as this is a malady of the body, it’s a disease of the Christian soul. All too often the faith and the love-of-Christ in our hearts doesn’t make it to our hands and feet. We just don’t want to get involved. Our schedule won’t allow. All the Purell we can pour won’t clean up the problem or person at our door. [8/MEH: Mag. Man/porch] What so sets apart the Samaritan in Jesus’ story may well lie right here. A) He’s willing to tend someone who’s a bloody mess. But B) He’s willing to give his attention to a Jew who would define him as unclean, unworthy, unholy, unacceptable and unimportant! Our choices are rarely so graphic or stark. But we do make choices. Hands and feet choices. Will our faith-blood flow to our feet if asked to go out of our way, not for someone we know, but someone we don’t? Will our fingers suddenly go numb in the voting booth if the choice is share the cost of some public service or palm it off on those who can’t help themselves or defend themselves? What’ll happen when things grow leaner? Will we get more gracious, or just get meaner? This fall, in mid–October, we’ll be invited to “Change the World”, to Re-Think Church OUTSIDE the walls. The BWC is shooting for 15,000 UM’s sharing some community ministry that touches others for Christ’s sake. (We choose the ministry.) And among those ministries, some with folks we’d rather not be with, but will become bold to work/care with. Our COM has identified ½ dozen+ such opportunities we’ll invite you to share. [New CAP Soup Kitchen to Suds for Duds] Friends, I know your good hearts. Now we need to test the circulation of our souls by the outreach of our arms and legs.

One more thing. Maybe a new thing we find in an age-old story. Have you the heart to invite another into the saving work of Christ?

You know me. My eye always seems to fall where few others look in the Bible’s stories. Well, here too. I love it that Jesus redeems the Inn Keeper by having the Samaritan entrust the wounded one to his care. The Samaritan gets the credit, yet his blessing is brief. It’s the Inn Keeper he invites to be merciful who’s in it for the long haul. It’s the Inn Keeper who must believe this, this Samaritan of all people, will return to settle-up/reward him for his trouble. ‘For his compassionate, faithful life. He has to trust in a promise-deferred. In that way, the Keeper of the Inn is just like those of us who keep the faith, waiting… with costly kindness… for the time to come. In the end, the Samaritan both salves the wounded, and widens the circle of those who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. … Exactly what the Lord requires. (Micah 6: 8)

That ol’ lawyer doesn’t ask Jesus what he has to believe to inherit eternal life. He asks what he must do. When he tries to make it all-about-his-neighbors (and their worthiness), Jesus says, “It’s not all about them, it’s all about you! Have you a good heart, a GOD HEART? ‘For the possible in the face of the undesirable? For pumping lifeblood/faith blood all the way to your hands and feet? Have you a heart for inviting more helpers and trusting believers in the promises of God, and in the sweet, sweet mercies of Christ, entertaining angels… often unawares?

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